S. Korea mulling withdrawal of diplomatic staff from Libya

SEOUL, Aug. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea is carefully considering withdrawing its ambassador and other diplomatic staff from Libya due to the worsening security situation in the violence-ravaged country, government sources said Monday.

Seoul last week imposed a travel ban on Libya for the first time in about three years as spiraling violence between armed militias in the city of Tripoli has raised concerns over security safety. The move, the highest in Seoul's four-tier travel advisory system, will be effective for six months.

"In accordance with the moves to evacuate Koreans staying in the country, the foreign ministry plans to gradually reduce the number of its staff working there," a source said. "If such moves are completed, the government will mull withdrawing its embassy."

Since mid-July, Seoul has strongly recommended that local companies withdraw their staff or reduce the number of their workers at an early date, the ministry said.

Currently, about 20 Korean companies, mostly builders, are doing business in Libya, with an estimated 500 South Koreans staying there.

Seoul's foreign ministry has been operating a task force to help Koreans leave the country. The ministry said it will also seek to consult with authorities in Tunisia to check land routes for evacuation.

The 12-member embassy in Libya has sent its three diplomats to Libya's neighboring countries to support the evacuation plans, it added.

In May 2011, the foreign ministry temporarily moved its Libyan embassy to Tunisia in the midst of a civil war in Libya.

The United Nations and the United States have withdrawn their staff and nationals from Libya, and some countries have told their citizens to leave, according to foreign reports.

<All rights reserved by Yonhap News Agency>